(PRESS RELEASE) BERKELEY, CA – Officials from the Seva Foundation announced that one of their long-standing partners, ophthalmologist David Heiden, has been selected to receive the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s 2018 Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award. Seva and the Pacific Vision Foundation nominated Dr. Heiden for his pioneering work to bring state-of-the-art blindness prevention techniques to HIV/AIDS patients in politically unstable and poverty-stricken environments. This award, given to two people annually, recognizes ophthalmologists who have made exemplary humanitarian contributions in their field.
Dr. Heiden has made significant ophthalmological contributions in the clinical setting as well as to the scholarly body of evidence that supports best practices for patients with HIV/AIDS. In Myanmar in 2006, Dr. Heiden pioneered the practice of training primary care providers for AIDS patients how to use eye exams to diagnose and treat Cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis, a disease that can increase AIDS-related mortality if left untreated. Because of his work, Seva successfully launched a systematic effort to prevent avoidable blindness as a complication from AIDS in developing countries. Dr. Heiden now serves as Medical Director of Seva’s AIDS Eye Initiative.
The workshop distilled from the training Dr. Heiden developed is now offered in China, India, Russia and Ukraine, as well as in Myanmar, where eye screening for CMV has become a standard component of care for HIV/AIDS patients. Because of Dr. Heiden’s efforts, people in Myanmar are less likely to become blind from AIDS than are residents of any other developing country. Dr. Heiden continues his work as both a trainer and a scholar. His leadership and research have wide-reaching implications for improving healthcare in any resource-constrained settings.
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“Receiving this award is certainly a wonderful thing, but having the opportunity to do work that I love is the real prize,” said Dr. Heiden. “That’s a prize that Seva has already given me many times over. In addition to the funding, the professional connections, and the myriad crucial tasks Seva has provided for this project, the enthusiasm and interest that’s in the air at Seva always fills my head with new ideas and always motivates me.”
One of Seva’s core beliefs is that communities around the world are capable of providing high-quality eye care services to local residents if they have access to appropriate training and supplies. Dr. Heiden’s work exemplifies this philosophy. Seva also organizes and empowers North American eye care professionals to engage with underserved communities. By training eye doctors and other local healthcare workers, and by sharing best practices, ophthalmologists from the U.S. and Canada amplify their impact and make a difference in the lives of people in need across the globe.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. With 32,000 members around the globe, the organization aims to “protect sight and empower lives by serving as an advocate for patients and the public, leading ophthalmic education, and advancing the profession of ophthalmology.” The annual Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award “recognizes Academy members for contributions in charitable activities, care of the indigent and community service performed above and beyond the typical duties of an ophthalmologist.” The awardee’s service generally has involved personal sacrifice and has extended over a period of several years.
“David Heiden’s leadership has created a breakthrough in preventing blindness in HIV/AIDS patients,” said Kate Moynihan, Executive Director of Seva, “and he continues to expand the reach of this critically important effort. The foundational work Dr. Heiden is doing with our AIDS Eye Initiative is helping Seva move toward our goal of providing 1 million sight-saving surgeries a year by 2020 and serving millions more people a year with eye care services.”